MAC Championship - Kent State v Northern Illinois

Predictions 101 — Orange Bowl


No. 13 Florida State vs. No. 16 Northern Illinois
Tues., Jan. 1 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Miami, Fla. – Sun Life Stadium

You’re likely not familiar with the Huskies. We’ll try to get you up to speed.

Northern Illinois (12-1) is the eighth team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to participate in the BCS, and the first from the Mid-American Conference. (Excited yet?)

Since opening the season with a 18-17 loss to Iowa, the Huskies have won 12 games in a row, capped off by a 44-37 double-overtime victory over Kent State in the MAC title game. (Are you liking this rather than being introduced to the Golden Flashes?)

Oddly enough, NIU won’t be coached by the man who brought them to this unlikely point and one has to wonder if Dave Doeren, who ditched the Huskies to accept an offer from N.C. State, will ever coach in a BCS bowl. (We say: “Nope.”)

Somebody who will be there is Husky quarterback Jordan Lynch, who rushed for less than 107 yards only once this season. The multi-dimensional junior also passed for nearly 3,000 yards, completed 63 percent of his passes and tossed 24 touchdowns, against only five interceptions. Against Toledo, this dude threw for 407 yards and ran for 162. If you’ve ever heard of anybody else doing anything of the sort, you’re wrong.

Win or lose — and there’s probably no way to avoid “lose” — he’s the only reason to tune in to this one.

Florida State (11-2) is destined to play uninspired ball. The loss to Florida on Nov. 24 sapped the Seminoles of their mojo. You could see that in their lackluster 21-15 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.

If the BCS bowl rotation was something different and FSU got paired against a marquee program, it would have proudly risen to the occasion. The ‘Noles might even need to fall behind to get jolted into action.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 14

The pick: Florida State 26-20

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

Wisconsin announces 10-year agreement with Under Armour

Joel Stave
Associated Press

What has long been rumored became fact Friday, as Wisconsin announced a 10-year agreement with Under Armour.

“I am absolutely thrilled about our new partnership with Under Armour,” AD Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “Kevin Plank and his team have established a brand that fits perfectly with the Wisconsin athletics story and culture. Our primary focus at Wisconsin is, of course, our student-athletes, and Under Armour’s passion and commitment to high quality and innovation will benefit our student-athletes for years to come. Our entire department is looking forward to a long and mutually productive relationship with the Under Armour team.”

The new deal will pay the Badgers a total of $7 million in cash and product in 2015-16 and is valued at $96 million over the life of the contract, good for second in the Big Ten, trailing only Nike’s new contract with Michigan.

Hidden within the contract are two nuggets that UA offered to sway the Badgers away from Adidas, from the Portland Business Journal:

Wisconsin will get as much as $500,000 from Under Armour to “rebrand” athletic facilities. It’ll get $150,000 to build out an Under Armour retail space in a campus gift shop called Bucky’s Locker Room. It also gets two summer internships for students at Under Armour’s Baltimore headquarters.

“The University of Wisconsin is an institution built on the highest values of academic excellence, and we are extremely proud to be teaming up with one of the most vibrant, distinctive and successful athletic programs in the country to help elevate the performance of all Badgers with innovative footwear and apparel,” added Plank.

Wisconsin’s departure continues to weaken the stronghold Adidas had built in the Midwest after losing Michigan to Nike and Notre Dame to Under Armour in recent years (the company still owns apparel rights for Indiana and Nebraska). The Badgers are now the 41st Division I athletics department and 17th FBS program to join UA.

Video: There’s nothing wrong with Cardale Jones

Getty Images

In the minds of some in the media and even more in the fan base, Ohio State in general and Cardale Jones specifically have been underwhelming through the first five games of the 2015 season.

Jones, in particular, has been a rather large target of much of the angst.  Coming off a Cinderella-like three-game postseason run that helped OSU to a national championship, the perception is that Jones has been underwhelming and underperforming; even head coach Urban Meyer appeared to be leaning in that direction as he considered making the switch to J.T. Barrett prior to the Western Michigan win before reaffirming his commitment to the redshirt junior.

Is that perception valid?  Statistically, he’s not that far off from where he was in the 2014 postseason, at least in a couple of categories.

He’s completing 61.3 percent of his passes this season compared to 59.4 percent in the games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.  It was 9.9 yards per attempt in that three-game stretch last season, 8.2 in five games this season.  When it comes to scoring and turning the ball over, however, that’s another matter entirely.

He threw a touchdown pass every 15 pass attempts in the 2014 postseason; this season, it’s one every 21 attempts.  Even more glaring, he’s currently throwing an interception every 21 attempts as well.  During the run that made him a household name, it was one pick every 37.5 throws.

So, fewer touchdowns plus more turnovers equals validation of the angst, right?  Not so fast, at least as far as the college arm of Pro Football Focus goes.